Navigating Residential Propane Tank Regulations: Your Must-Know Guide

pile of law books signaling residential propane tank regulations

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Your propane use experience improves if you clearly understand the governing residential propane tank regulations. It means that you always uphold the key safety measures that are apparently put in place to protect the users from fatal propane gas accidents. But who exactly is this guide meant for? 

If you have wondered about the ideal propane tank distance from the house, this read perfectly suits you. Also, this guide is tailor-made for homeowners, propane gas suppliers, or anyone thinking of venturing into the propane installation business. It helps us understand what the law says about the key propane tank installation measures one must adhere to. 

The regulatory bodies mandated with the provision of the rules governing propane tank installations and transport are many and may vary from state to state. This is because some states and municipals have additional rules to complement the Fed bodies’ regulations. 

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But in principle, you must comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provisions when installing propane tanks. In addition, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) also provides general guidelines for propane gas installations. Therefore, knowing the basics of your LP gas tank placement and storage takes a lot of work. You must consult all the relevant bodies in your jurisdiction to remain compliant.

But everything is a breeze when you come to terms with the basics, and this is what this guide intends to bring. Hence, we invite you to discover Propane Tank Regulations: Navigating the Legal Guidelines for Safe Home Propane Usage.

Important Propane Tank Safety Requirements

Dealing with propane tanks requires extra precaution to be safe as, despite the apparent upsides of this fuel, it can be fatal with an explosion. Below are the general propane tank rules you should always adhere to during placement.  

  • You should never place an LP tank fill port at a distance less than 15 feet from an electric distribution system or any electric switching equipment. 
  • Never have your LP tank above a power line, especially if the overhead lines carry high-voltage electricity. This is handy in shielding the tank from a possible ignition, which can lead to a huge explosion. 
  • In scenarios where you must locate the tank next to a powerline, the part of the tank closest to the electricity system must be at least 8 feet away. 
  • The minimum distance of the tank from your home/house or any structure should be 30 feet. In addition, no gas tank should lack a pressure relief valve. 
  • Installation of underground propane tanks also comes with strict depth requirements as per the LP Gas Code (NFPA 58). Therefore, you must also apply the key depth requirements in addition to the above clearance measures. 

Large Propane Tank Placement Regulations

An image of a propane tank in a field.

The two main large propane tank sizes are 500-gallon and 1000-gallon, and owing to their size, they need to be further away from buildings than smaller propane tanks. The main uses of large propane tanks include powering generators, heating, and running agricultural components. So where exactly should you place them? 

  • You must ensure that the tank is at least 10 feet from the opening of the nearest building, and If you can place it further, the better. 
  • Also, you must place the tank as far as possible from an ignition source. The ideal propane tank distance requirement for this is also at least 10 feet, so if you can place it further, you’ll have significantly minimized the risk of explosion. 
  • Thirdly, the minimum distance requirement from a property line is 10 feet. 
  • How about the ideal depth for underground propane tanks? For 500-gallon underground propane tanks, the hole dimensions must be 14′ Long,  5′ Wide and  4′ 6″ Deep. The length and width dimensions of the hole for 1000-gallon underground propane tanks must be larger since this is a larger tank than the 500-gallon. Hence, ideally, the hole must measure 20 feet long and 5 feet 6 inches wide while the depth is the same as the 500-gallon propane tank at 4 feet, 6 inches

Smaller Propane Tank Placement Regulations

There are significantly small propane tanks, with some BBQ tanks weighing as low as 20 lbs, 30 lbs, and 40 lbs. These are quite small, and they are primarily reserved for camper or grill applications as they are quite small for typical household applications. 

Most of these small propane tanks are commonly referred to as DOT tanks, owing to their compliance with the Department of Transport regulations. Some DOT propane tanks are filled on-site, while others must be transported to the filling center. 

Other common small tanks are the ASME tanks, which are typically all vessels with an internal pressure of at least 15PSI. Irrespective of the tank size, the rule of thumb is that as long as a tank qualifies as an ASME propane tank, it should be placed at least 10 feet from the ignition source. So does this just mean you should avoid storing the tank away from a fire? 

While fire is the primary ignition source, there are other potential sources, such as air conditioners, generators, and vents from fireplaces. 

The regulations for small tanks (Any tank with a capacity below 125 gallons)  are less stringent than for larger propane tanks. Let us explore some key placement measures and regulations for the common smaller residential propane tanks. 

60-gallon propane tanks

They are commonly useful in small household applications such as powering cooking ranges and fireplaces. You should locate a tank of this size at least 3 feet away from a building’s opening and 5 feet from an ignition source. 

120-gallon propane tanks

It is a small tank with relatively more applications than the erstwhile discussed type, thanks to its relatively larger size. The tank must be positioned at least 5 feet from a building’s opening and 10 feet from a possible ignition source. 

How about if you go for a 120-gallon underground propane tank? The ideal dimensions for a hole of such a fixture should be at least 9′ 6″ long, 4′ wide, and 44″ deep. 

Underground Propane Tank Placement Requirements

An image of an expired propane tank.

In a nutshell, the ideal hole dimensions for 120-gallon, 500-gallon, and 1000-gallon propane tanks as per the LP Gas Code (NFPA 58) are as follows: 

  • 100-gallon tanks: 9′ 6″ Long x 4′ Wide x 44″ Deep
  • 500-gallon tanks: 14′ Long x 5′ Wide x 4′ 6″ Deep
  • 1000-gallon tanks: 20′ Long x 5′ 6″ Wide x 4′ 6″ Deep

Ideal Installation Conditions for Underground Propane Tanks

Building a concrete/masonry slab for the underground propane tank placement is not mandatory. However, laying a coarse sand layer measuring about six to twelve inches in thickness at the bottom of the hole is recommended. The sand layer is handy in ensuring proper hole drainage, which is important in curtailing rusting. 

High Water Table Underground Propane Tank Installation.

There are also state laws governing the other finer details of how to place underground propane tanks. For example, in Utah, installing underground propane tank locations where the water table is relatively high or in designated federal flood zones is prohibited. If this is your kind of area, you must seek permission from the Fire Marshall before installing an underground tank in such a place. 

Once you gain approval, the basic prerequisite is to create a concrete slab beneath to secure the underground propane tank. Also, you must use a water-resistant material such as Celetex between the tank straps and the concrete slab. 

Dealing with Corrosion

Installing a sacrificial anode within the tank is crucial to care for the ions that could accelerate the rusting process. Connect the anodes to the tank via a copper table or as per the advice of a qualified electrochemistry expert. The most typical anodes to use include zinc and magnesium, usually in the form of stakes, soft powder, or solid rods. 

In addition, you must prepare the underground propane tank for installation beneath the ground by essentially painting it first. Normally, propane tanks have a thick paint coating from the manufacturer/supplier. However, as an additional protection layer, it must be painted further onsite before laying it down. 

Underground Tank Backfill

When installing your underground propane tank, it’s important to have it well submersed into the hole, with the minimum distance from the top of the hole to the tank being 6 inches. Also important is to ensure the tank can withstand heavy traffic if set at a position where vehicles are likely to pass overhead. 

The hole should be filled with an 18” to 24” compacted earth layer below the grade in the above case. In addition, you should backfill the hole with coarse sand, although rock-free earth will also work. During the entire backfilling process, caution must be undertaken to prevent scratching the tank’s paint coating. 

Also, when backfilling, you should put portions of 12 inches of the course sand/rock-free earth at a time while tamping down after every layer. This should be done until you’ve covered the entire hole. 

Does a Propane Tank Need to be on a Slab?

As part of the requirement to elevate the propane tank above the ground for above-the-ground propane tank installations, it is important to plant it on a slab. It ensures that above-ground tanks are secured on a firm and clean platform. 

According to the Unified Fire Authority Fire Prevention Bureau, the ideal concrete size is 4 inches of the concrete pad. It should also feature ½-inch x 6-inch grade 8 galvanized bolts to secure it strongly on the concrete base. 

In addition, it should also feature an easy-to-access shutoff valve on the upstream side of the tank and on each appliance that uses the gas. Moreover, the tank should also be marked to identify its content, and it can never be installed underneath a building. Part of the painting should include a ‘no-smoking within 15 feet’ indicator sign on the tank. 

Critical Considerations When Installing Propane Tanks

An image of a household propane furnace.

Below are the primary considerations you should make when choosing the ideal placement point of your tank to ensure you’re within the set clearance and depth stipulations. 

  • First, take note of where there are house openings in relation to your chosen propane tank installation point. By this, we mean your house doors, windows, etc. 
  • Also, you must ask yourself which is the best position within your yard to ensure compliance with the above-discussed placement measures. 
  • Again, are there any property lines around your house, and where are they located? 
  • Finally, identify the sources of ignition close to the propane tank. These include any appliance capable of starting a fire. 

Once you have considered the above four factors, you’ll come up with the best installation spot for your propane tank. In addition, beware of disrupting the other systems within your yard, such as your septic tank and sprinkler lines. 

Most importantly, check out for overhead powerlines that may affect gas delivery to the tank’s location. 

Summary

Dealing with propane gas tanks means you must be on the right side of the law because it is a highly flammable fuel. Notably, most of the regulations on propane tank installations are meant to ensure safe use at all times. Therefore, you must uphold all the regulations without fail. Whether you’re dealing with underground or above-the-ground installations, of cardinal importance is to ensure you put your safety first. 

The reputable propane gas tank suppliers and agents in the US are also aware of these rules. Hence, engaging them will be key to helping you remain compliant. We link you to these top-rated gas-supplying firms in your locale, and we pride ourselves on being key in enabling you to realize your propane gas use dream. 

Reach out to us with your location, and we’ll outright link you up with the top suppliers on any day. 

Ryan McCabe

Ryan McCabe

Ryan is a home and small business energy expert, having overseen retail propane, heating oil, and HVAC services companies. On ComparePropane, Ryan writes about things that people should know when shopping for or using propane in their homes and businesses. 

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